Kansas Capitol Connection: A weekly summary of education-related developments before the LegislatureAustin Harris
The Kansas House and Senate will have key debates and votes on school finance, taxes and the budget this coming week as the Legislature heads to the end of the regular session.
First adjournment for the 2017 Legislature is Friday, April 7, then legislators will take a three-week break and return Monday, May 1 for the wrap-up session.
A new school finance formula will likely be considered by the full House.
A majority of the House K-12 Education Budget Committee has reached consensus on the new proposal. As amended, House Bill 2410 looks similar to the formula legislators repealed in 2015 before implementing the block grant method, which has been declared unconstitutionally inadequate by the Kansas Supreme Court. KASB has developed a special document to track changes in HB 2410.
The new proposal would add $150 million to schools by providing base funding of $4,170 per pupil and then dispersing funds for students and districts with special circumstances. Many of the weighting factors in the new plan are similar to the pre-block grant weightings.
The full House is expected to vote on the new bill and the Senate will take up school funding when the wrap up session starts.
Some legislators on the committee say they believe the state will try to provide a $150 million increase for each of the next four or five years to address the Kansas Supreme Court order that the funding system must be fixed by July 1.
But increasing spending in the face of a nearly $1 billion revenue shortfall through June 2019 will require tax increases.
On taxes, the House will likely vote this week on HB 2395, which would establish a five percent flat state income tax, repeal the LLC exemption and lower the state sales tax on food to five percent in 2019. The measure would raise more than $840 million but critics say the plan would increase the tax burden on low- and middle-income Kansans who now pay 2.7 percent on state income taxes.
On state spending, the House will likely vote on a budget — House Bill 2364 — that cannot be balanced without more revenue. As amended, the bill also includes a proviso establishing a task force to make recommendations next year to the Legislature on whether schools can save money through consolidating health insurance plans and procuring certain items through the state. The measure also would shift $7 million to pay for Parents As Teachers programs from federal welfare funds to the state Children’s Initiatives Fund, reversing a change made two years ago.
The Senate has already approved a budget that will require more funding because currently the plan would leave a deficit of more than $400 million for both fiscal years 2018 and 2019.
Earlier this session, the Legislature approved a tax increase that would have provided nearly $1 billion over two years, but that was vetoed by Gov. Sam Brownback. The House voted to override Brownback’s veto, but in the Senate, the override attempt fell three votes short.
Another important vote expected this week is on whether to override Brownback’s veto of Medicaid expansion.